Chatfield will have an impact on Nissa Peterson and, “intern,” she’ll be forever changed.
“I am here more for the people of Chatfield to have an impact on me. I am here to learn, not as an expert to tell anyone how something should be done,” said Chatfield Lutheran Church seminary intern Peterson. “I guess part of my impact is to help them see themselves as teachers, and see Chatfield Lutheran Church as an extension of the seminary. That being said, as an intern, part of my job is to preach and teach. And as a preacher and teacher, I want to tell everyone in Chatfield that they are loved, unconditionally, by a forgiving God. I want to help people see their potential, and live out their faith using their gifts.”
The Maple Grove, Minn., native attended high school in Texas and Ohio, then obtained her undergraduate degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
“I studied chemistry at Gustavus and I’m seeking my master of divinity at Luther Seminary in St. Paul,” she continued. “I’m at Chatfield Lutheran for my internship year as part of my master’s degree. The internship is required for Lutheran clergy before they are ordained.”
During college, Peterson spent five summers working at Lutheran Bible camps. “That is probably my favorite job to date,” she added. “After college, I worked for five years as a technical writer at a pharmaceutical company. I liked the work, disliked the corporate politics and disliked being stuck at a desk all day. During seminary, I worked for six months or so at a sandwich shop as a cashier.”
The almost-28-year-old is now living on Chatfield’s Main Street with her husband and they’re busy exploring Chatfield and meeting the town’s citizens.
“I’m super excited about my apartment on Main Street above a local business. I am really loving being able to walk almost everywhere I need, and it’s nice to have friendly faces saying ‘hello’ while I’m walking up and down Main Street,” Peterson added. “I’m thrilled to live in a small town — I have family all over the country, but most of my Minnesota family is in the Cities. I’ve been a suburbs kid my whole life, so Chatfield is a very welcome change. I really like being able to walk to places, and already knowing people in town, and having people wave to me from cars, whether I know them or not.”
Nissa anticipates doing a little bit of everything at Chatfield Lutheran.
“I’ll be doing some preaching for sure, and plugging in with other ministries as the church has need and as I discover areas of ministry I’d like to learn more about,” Peterson explained. “I’m particularly excited about helping young people explore their faith, as well as hearing life stories of the senior citizens.”
Peterson also said she is looking forward to getting to know the people who live in Chatfield.
“I am an extrovert — a certified ‘people person.’ I love getting to know people’s stories about their challenges and joys, their faith, their doubts, the things that make them laugh until they fall out of their chairs,” she continued. “Walking alongside of people in faith as they go through life is what excites me most about being the intern here and about being a pastor someday.”
She acknowledged her growth from seminary student to pastor will come with challenges. “I think the biggest challenge will be finding my own sense of pastoral identity,” Peterson admitted. “I am here to learn how to be a pastor, so I need to learn how to feel comfortable in that role.”
She said she knows that will be an adjustment to see herself as the spiritual leader of a group of people, rather than just one of the group.
“I am very lucky to have Pastor Mark (Docken) as my mentor for the year. I will also work with Kerri (Jahnke), our youth director. Really, the whole congregation will hold the role of teacher for the year — giving me feedback, encouragement and support as I learn how to be a pastor,” Peterson said. “I am here to learn whatever they will teach. I hope to learn about being a good pastor, but also a better friend, listener, teacher, leader and preacher.”
Peterson also said she finds working in ministry to be very rewarding. Her favorites are participating in conversations about faith and real life.
“I love connecting with people about meaningful topics, especially how their faith impacts their life,” she said. “I also anticipate that teaching Bible studies and confirmation classes will be very rewarding. It’s very satisfying to help people become more familiar with the stories in the Bible, and to watch as they grow stronger in faith and knowledge that God loves them no matter what.”
The intern stated she knows she won’t be the same person one year from now. “I have no doubt that internship will change me. I hope I will emerge more confident in my pastoral skills, like preaching and teaching. I hope that I will grow more confident in my role as pastor and leader. I’m sure the year will go really fast.”
Peterson spends her free time doing anything outside. She said, “Canoeing is a favorite, as are hiking, going for walks, playing Frisbee. I enjoy crocheting, reading, and baking, too. I am six feet tall. And no, I didn’t play basketball or volleyball. I am not coordinated enough for throwing and catching. I was a swimmer. Not fast, but adequate.”
Peterson added she would like everyone to know she is genuine about wanting to know not only her parishioners, but also the other residents in Chatfield.
“I lead a rich emotional life, so I will probably cry at some point while I’m preaching because I am touched so deeply by the importance of my message and how I believe it can change lives,” she said. “I want people to know that I am here to learn from them. I am here to try things, so at some point I will fail...I am here to learn as well as to teach. I am very enthusiastic, I am very silly, and I have a giant heart. I am a person who cares very deeply about the people around me.”
As she begins her ministry in Chatfield, she enthusiastically welcomes visitors. “Come visit me at Chatfield Lutheran Church — I’d love to hear your story!” she concluded.